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April 4, 2006 Meeting Minutes
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
Tuesday, April 4, 2006 – 7:30 PM – Town Hall
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President J. Michael Schweder called the meeting to order. Pastor Ron Rice, of Advent Moravian Church, offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Jean Belinski, Karen Dolan, Robert J. Donchez, Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., Gordon B. Mowrer, Magdalena F. Szabo, and J. Michael Schweder, 7.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of February 21 and March 21, 2006 were approved.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances
and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)
6. OLD BUSINESS
Garbage Collection – Meeting with Haulers
Mrs. Belinski recounted that last Thursday evening Thomas Marshall, Recycling Coordinator, held a meeting in Town Hall with trash haulers. Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, advised that in addition to Mr. Marshall, Michael Palos, Chief Housing Inspector, and Jessica Lucas, Environmental Health Director, were also in attendance. Mrs. Belinski noted that at previous meetings with the haulers it was represented to them that the new proposal for zoned garbage collection was a done deal, and she believed that was why there were not a lot of haulers at the March 14, 2006 Community Development Committee meeting on the proposal. She highlighted the fact that the haulers subsequently learned it was not a done deal since the matter was tabled at the Committee meeting. Relating that at the meeting last Thursday with the haulers Mr. Marshall said if the haulers do not go along with zoned garbage hauling he will see to it in nine months that the City has contract hauling, Mrs. Belinski asked if Mr. Hanna was aware of the statement. Mr. Hanna, affirming he did not attend the meeting, advised he was aware that a remark was made about contract hauling. He explained it was an informal meeting and there was disappointment with the small number of haulers who came to the meeting. Mr. Hanna continued on to say he thought there was some heated exchange, and Mr. Marshall made an intemperate remark. Stating at this point any decision such as that would be City Council’s and the Mayor’s to make, Mr. Hanna denoted that Mr. Marshall was not speaking for the Administration nor for City Council. Mrs. Belinski stressed that the remark was very inappropriate. While expressing his concurrence, Mr. Hanna said he did not think Mr. Marshall threatened them that it would happen in nine months. Mr. Hanna added he would be happy to meet with any of the haulers.
Mrs. Belinski, affirming she has been following the issue for years, recounted that in 1989 Mayor Smith appointed a group of citizens to a solid waste committee to study the question of whether the City should keep its present private garbage collection system or switch to contract hauling. After spending many hours of research and talking to experts, Mrs. Belinski advised the group notified Mayor Smith it was their concerted opinion that the current system should be retained because it is the best, and the City should not go to contract hauling. Shortly afterwards, Mayor Smith gathered an ad hoc committee that decided there should be contract hauling. As a result, there was standing room only at a City Council Meeting at which people said loud and clear they do not want contract hauling. The idea resurfaced in 1992 and again Town Hall was packed with citizens. Mrs. Belinski, reiterating now it is heard that Mr. Marshall is threatening to bring in contract hauling, stressed she thinks the citizens of Bethlehem will have something to say about that.
Mr. Hanna advised that the only proposal on the table right now does not include contract hauling. Mr. Hanna continued on to say whatever remarks were made by Mr. Marshall in a non-public meeting has nothing to do with the proposal that is before City Council and was discussed at the Community Development Committee meeting. Mr. Hanna restated the only proposal from the Administration on the table right now does not include contract hauling or a single hauler.
A. Business Administrator – Proposed EMS Billing Increases
The Clerk read a memorandum dated March 17, 2006 from Dennis W. Reichard, Business Administrator, stating that the contracted EMS billing provider, St. Luke's Physician Group, is recommending a 5% inflation factor to increase billing charges as of January 6, 2006. This increase is based on Medicare and commercial insurance company yearly inflationary factors. The last EMS fee increase was June 17, 2003.
President Schweder referred the matter to the Finance Committee.
B. Housing and Community Development Planner – DCED Grants – Moravian House IV and Elm Street Manager
The Clerk read a letter dated March 27, 2006 from Irene Woodward, Housing and Community Development Planner, requesting Council’s consideration of Resolutions requesting Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development grants on behalf of the Moravian House IV project and the Elm Street Manager program.
President Schweder referred the matter to the Community Development Committee.
C. Bethlehem Authority – Sale of Land to Lehigh County
The Clerk read a letter dated March 28, 2006 from Stephen R. Salvesen, Interim Executive Director of the Bethlehem Authority, requesting approval for the sale of land in Salisbury Township to Lehigh County. Lehigh County has agreed to the request from the Bethlehem Authority that the land be valued at $6,500 per acre.
President Schweder referred the matter to the Public Works Committee, jointly with the Parks and Public Property Committee.
D. Housing and Community Development Planner – 2006 Public Housing/Section 8 Income Limits
The Clerk read a letter dated March 30, 2006 from Irene Woodward, Housing and Community Development Planner, to which was attached the latest revised household income limits for Housing and Community Development related activities. This data is used to determine program benefits according to the federal statutory intent of the Housing and Community Development Act.
President Schweder stated that the item is for information only and no Council action is required.
E. City Solicitor – Illick's Mill – Amendment No. 1 to Sublease Agreement
The Clerk read a memorandum dated March 31, 2006 from John F. Spirk, Jr., City Solicitor, to which was attached proposed Amendment No. 1 to Sublease Agreement between the City and Illick's Mill Partnership concerning Illick's Mill.
President Schweder stated that the appropriate Resolution can be placed on the April 18 Agenda, unless the Parks and Public Property Committee wishes to review this matter.
8 . REPORTS
A. President of Council
Town Hall – New Carpeting and Chairs
Mayor Callahan, welcoming the Members of Council to the “new and improved” Town Hall in which new replacement chairs and carpeting were installed for the first time since Town Hall was built in 1967, expressed the hope that City Council is happy and pleased with the result. Mayor Callahan said he would like to publicly thank Charles Brown, Director of Parks and Public Property, and Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, for the work done by employees on the Town Hall refurbishing project. Observing that the replacements were probably long overdue, Mayor Callahan expressed appreciation for Council’s support for including funding in the budget so the project could become a reality.
President Schweder noted that the Members of Council concur with the Mayor’s remarks, and thanked everyone involved in the project.
C. Human Resources and Environment Committee
Ms. Dolan, Chairwoman of the Human Resources and Environment Committee, presented an oral report of the Committee’s meeting held Thursday, March 23, 2006 on the following subject: Employee Grievance Procedures.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
A. Bill No. 11 - 2006 – Amending General Fund Budget – Police Department – Liquor Control Board Grant; EMS – Overtime Reimbursement; and Health Bureau – Program Revenue
The Clerk read Bill No. 11 – 2006, Amending General Fund Budget – Police Department – Liquor Control Board Grant; EMS – Overtime Reimbursement; and Health Bureau – Program Revenue, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 11 – 2006, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4375, was declared adopted.
B. Bill No. 12 – 2006 – Amending Water Capital Budget – Payment of 2005 Contracts
The Clerk read Bill No. 12 – 2006, Amending Water Capital Budget – Payment of 2005 Contracts, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 12 – 2006, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4376, was declared adopted.
C. Bill No. 13 – 2006 – Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Appraisal for Sidewalks on Linden Street; and Year-End Adjustments
The Clerk read Bill No. 13 – 2006, Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Appraisal for Sidewalks on Linden Street; and Year-End Adjustments, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 13 – 2006, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4377, was declared adopted.
D. Bill No. 14 – 2006 – Amending Community Development Budget – CDBG and HOME Year-End Adjustments and Corrections
The Clerk read Bill No. 14 – 2006, Amending Community Development Budget – CDBG and HOME Year-End Adjustments and Corrections, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 14 – 2006, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4378, was declared adopted.
E. Bill No. 15 – 2006 – Amending Article 121 - Intermunicipal Fund Transfers
The Clerk read Bill No. 15 – 2006, Amending Article 121 – Intermunicipal Fund Transfers, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 15 – 2006, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4379, was declared adopted.
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Certificate of Appropriateness – 328 Vine Street
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,821 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to renovate the front façade at 328 Vine Street.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.
12. NEW BUSINESS
Committee Meeting Announcements
Chairman Donchez announced a Public Safety Committee meeting on Thursday, April 27, 2006 at 4:15 PM in the Mayor’s Conference Room on Police, Fire, and EMS Department updates.
Town Hall - Renovations
Mayor Callahan affirmed to Ms. Szabo that the projection screen remained in its present place. Mrs. Belinski denoted that the lights are much brighter.
Graffiti on West Side and Gang Activity
Ms. Dolan, referring to a memorandum she had sent to the Police Commissioner, noted that several citizens called her home and the City Clerk’s Office concerning a recent increase in graffiti on the West Side, particularly in the Second Avenue and Spring Street area. In addition, Ms. Dolan advised that while participating in the South Side Task Force spring cleanup the past weekend she noticed quite a bit of graffiti in various City parks, some of which was clearly gang symbols. Ms. Dolan asked if the Police Commissioner could explain what the Police Department does about graffiti, its possible relation to gang activity, how it addresses gang activity, and whether a more comprehensive or aggressive approach is needed.
Francis Donchez, Police Commissioner, responding he does not think a more comprehensive or aggressive approach is needed, explained what is done. When graffiti is identified, a form is completed that is sent to Charles Brown, Director of Parks and Public Property. If the graffiti is on public property it is taken care of right away. If it is on private property, the Department requests the signature of the property owner on a form, and a determination is made whether the owner’s insurance provides reimbursement for some of the City’s costs to have graffiti removed. Focusing on problems that can occur, Police Commissioner Donchez highlighted the fact that, as is the case with the property on Second Avenue and Spring Street, the property owner is not in the area and it has been difficult to locate the owner to sign the permission form. Police Commissioner Donchez, further noting that cold weather prevents graffiti from being removed during the winter months, observed that more graffiti is evident until the removal period begins in the Spring which is done by the Parks and Public Property Department.
Charles Brown, Director of Parks and Public Property, acknowledging it is a troublesome problem, affirmed that graffiti in parks comes under the responsibility of his Department. Mr. Brown affirmed that graffiti in Yosko Park was taken care of last Saturday in conjunction with assistance from Lehigh University. Mr. Brown advised that the graffiti clean-up program will start in several weeks when extra help is available. Mr. Brown expressed he would appreciate being notified of any particular areas so they can be addressed. In further response to Ms. Dolan, Mr. Brown explained that a graffiti removal product is utilized that requires the use of gloves and masks, and the surface is usually repainted.
In response to Ms. Dolan’s question about gang symbols and increased gang activity, Police Commissioner Donchez advised that, as part of the U. S. Attorney’s task force, grant money was received for the eastern part of Pennsylvania for this matter. Police Commissioner Donchez stated that while an increase in graffiti has been seen, he has not seen through arrests anything definitive as far as an increase in gang activity.
Ms. Dolan asked how many of the City’s parks are adopted and how many are not.
Mr. Brown replied that about three-quarters of the City’s parks are adopted, a new West side group is being formed, and the groups are very helpful. Mr. Brown commented that the Department is constantly looking for groups to adopt smaller parks.
Mayor Callahan added that he has been involved with the U. S. Attorney Meehan’s office regarding the grant request. Mayor Callahan, informing the assembly that the grant funding application program was on a national level, advised that only six grants were given out, and the U. S. Route 22 corridor was one of the six recipients to receive over $2 million to combat gangs. Mayor Callahan, noting he attended meetings along with the Mayor of Reading, highlighted the fact that Bethlehem is fortunate in not having the level of gang activity that other cities close by have. Mayor Callahan, pointing out that the gangs operate as a regional syndicate rather than within municipal boundaries, advised that the municipalities need to work under a regional approach. Mayor Callahan emphasized that the grant will go a long way towards the already increased cooperation along the Route 22 corridor to combat gangs.
Mrs. Belinski queried what can be done about graffiti in the case of absentee landlords.
Police Commissioner Donchez, commenting that eventually the individuals are contacted to sign the form, explained from a liability standpoint the City would be doing something to someone’s property.
Mayor Callahan observed perhaps the problem might be able to be addressed as are weed and trash complaints in which, after the owner who has been given notice does not correct the problem, the City corrects the problem and bills the owner.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Town Hall - Renovations
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, commented on the beautiful renovations in Town Hall.
745 Laufer Street - Garbage
Mr. Grubb, affirming there has been garbage on the rear porch of a rental property at 745 Laufer Street, said repeated calls to City officials have gotten nowhere. Mr. Grubb continued on to advise that the situation is starting to create an odor, drawing stray cats, rats, and skunks. He further stated the garbage can on the rear porch does not have a lid, and there are about 15-20 large plastic bags filled with garbage on the back porch. Mr. Grubb communicated that the neighbors are extremely frustrated with the City’s lack of action in addressing this issue.
Laufer Street, East Fifth Street, and East Sixth Street Area - Stray Cats
Mr. Grubb recalled when he was employed by the City one of the largest complaints of the Laufer Street, East Fifth Street, and East Sixth Street area was feral and stray cats. He thought it would be a good idea for the City to consider partnering with the Northampton County SPCA concerning the problem. He added that he has been informed there are a large number of cats under the porch at 743 Laufer Street.
Town Hall - Renovations
Eddie Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, said the Town Hall
renovations look very nice and the new seats are very comfortable.
Mr. Rodriquez expressed his opinion that enforcement of the City’s current garbage regulations is needed as opposed to changes. He noted that some garbage haulers return containers to the property but some do not, and some are sloppy. Mr. Rodriquez asserted that enforcement is badly needed in the South Side area.
Mr. Rodriquez asked about the lighting in Madison Park. Mr. Rodriquez later added there is a lot of drug activity.
Charles Brown, Director of Parks and Public Property, advised that an individual rejected the City’s request, and the matter will be reviewed again with the Police Department.
In further response to Mr. Rodriquez, Mr. Brown confirmed that Birkel Avenue and Boyer Street were taken care of during the South Side clean up.
Mr. Rodriquez, turning to graffiti, stressed that enforcement is needed now and it should be stopped before it starts. Mr. Rodriquez said more Police Officers are needed.
745 Laufer Street - Garbage
Mr. Mowrer said he assumed that the City follows up on matters such as was reported earlier concerning garbage at 745 Laufer Street.
Tony Hanna, Director Community and Economic Development, advised that a notice and citation were issued, and the problem is ongoing. Mr. Hanna stated there were several continuances on a court date. Mr. Hanna said he will check on it again tomorrow.
Petition to Reclassify Tunkhannock Creek - Exceptional Value
James Johnson, 1909 Kenmore Avenue, representing the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the Sierra Club, read into the record the group’s position on a petition to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) from the Tobyhanna Creek/Tunkhannock Creek Watershed Association and the Tunkhanna Fishing Association to reclassify the Tunkhannock Creek from its present classification of High Quality to Exceptional Value. Mr. Johnson informed the assembly that the Tunkhannock Creek is not only an important water supply for the City of Bethlehem but also has the highest concentration of globally rare, endangered species in Pennsylvania. Mr. Johnson said on March 1, 2006 the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection received a petition representing the Tobyhanna Creek/Tunkhannock Creek Watershed Association and the Tunkhanna Fishing Association to reclassify the Tunkhannock Creek from High Quality cold water fishery to Exceptional Value. The Sierra Club supports this position which is in the DEP’s review process. Concerns regarding permitting and other restrictions related to the process can be easily answered. When watersheds are designated as Exceptional Value, existing activities such as farming, sewage treatment plants, and industrial discharges are grandfathered and are allowed to continue. New or expanded activities must be implemented in a way that does not degrade the watershed. For example, new farms can still be built and permitting requirements are designed to minimize impact on water quality. An Exceptional Value designation will not stop development. Local governments are provided with tools to encourage developers to make clean water a high priority. Developers will be required to comply with best management practices, and must demonstrate that any discharge to the stream will not degrade water quality. Developers could also be required to minimize direct discharges of storm water runoff with infiltration and other techniques to maintain clear water. Municipalities will also have to assure that projects will not degrade the existing water quality; for instance, culvert repair and maintenance can continue under general permit requirements. Only those wetlands located in and along the floodplain will be designated Exceptional Value wetlands, and any other wetlands in the watershed will be protected at the current levels. Mr. Johnson stated he sincerely hopes that City Council will support this petition.
President Schweder notified Mr. Johnson that Members of Council have received a significant amount of mail with respect to the issue. President Schweder, advising it is uncertain exactly what role City Council yet plays in this, pointed out that the City Clerk’s Office has contacted the office of DEP Secretary McGinty regarding the matter, where it is in process, and who ultimately makes the final decision. President Schweder, noting he has been informed that representatives of the Sierra Club have not appeared before the Bethlehem Authority, suggested that at the next Bethlehem Authority meeting on April 13 it would probably be appropriate for the organization’s representatives to go before the Bethlehem Authority Board. President Schweder informed Mr. Johnson there will be a public comment period before any decisions are finally made by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. President Schweder observed it is probably premature for anything to be taken up by City Council at this point, and thanked Mr. Johnson for bringing the matter to Council’s attention.
Mr. Leeson stated he would like to know the position of the Administration on the issue of support by City Government of the Exceptional Value status designation for Tunkhannock Creek. Mr. Leeson, noting his sense is there is a lot of support in the community for the designation, affirmed that City Council has received a large number of communications about the subject, and advised he is also stopped on the street about the issue. Commenting he intends to look into the matter, Mr. Leeson stated he is not sure whether City Council at some point would seek to involve itself in the issue. Mr. Leeson restated he would like the Administration to study the matter, and inform City Council whether or not it supports or opposes the designation and the reasons why.
Curbside Garbage Pickup and Zoned Hauling Proposal
Scott Feiss, 161 Longenbach Avenue, Nazareth, said he is speaking on behalf of Symons Sanitation, the company he has been with for 27 years. Focusing on the proposed changes in the City’s Municipal Waste Ordinance to zoned, curbside hauling that were discussed at the Community Development Committee meeting on March 14, 2006, Mr. Feiss said he met with Thomas Marshall, Recycling Coordinator, in private and attended all the scheduled meetings between haulers and City staff. Expressing he was happy there was a dialogue for a change, Mr. Feiss further said he thought they were having honest, open exchanges. Mr. Feiss, stating he remains sympathetic to the concerns about enforcing the current Ordinance, pointed out his “attitude changed slightly last Thursday when, presumably out of frustration, Mr. Marshall made the comment ‘if we don’t get something through in the next eight or nine months I’m going to propose contract hauling. I may not get it but I’m going to propose it.’ There was no heated exchange at that meeting or at any meeting that I’ve been to. “ Mr. Feiss communicated he finds it hard to believe that Mr. Marshall would make that comment on his own accord without discussing it with his staff or superiors. Explaining that he sees this as a threat to his existence along with other private haulers in Bethlehem, Mr. Feiss said he “feels a little betrayed, and I’m not quite sure whether to continue the peace talks or rally the troops.” Mr. Feiss, pointing out the major problem with the proposal is that in its current state it would require curbside pickup, stressed the people of the City have voiced their opinion adamantly opposed to that. He added right now there is a lack of trust on his part and that of other independent haulers.
Courtesy of the Floor – 5 Minute Time Limit
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, referring to the Courtesy of the Floor at the December 6, 2005 City Council Meeting, noted that Karen Dolan encouraged City Council to vote no to a 5 minute time limit for Courtesy of the Floor, and she thought it was a draconian move to go from 12 minutes to 5 minutes. He continued on to note that Ms. Dolan, suggesting a compromise time of 8 minutes, did not believe decreasing the time limit to 8 minutes would hamper the public’s ability to express their views and it might increase the attention that Members of Council might give to each individual, and might encourage more people to participate in the democratic process. Ms. Dolan expressed the belief that the time in answering questions by City officials should not be counted as part of a citizen’s allotted time. Ms. Dolan urged Council to vote no to a 5 minute time limit and to entertain a motion if a Council Member should choose to reach a compromise. Highlighting the fact that Ms. Dolan is now a Member of Council and has the power to reach the desired compromise by Resolution, Mr. Antalics felt adoption of that action would right a wrong against the citizens. Mr. Antalics asked Ms. Dolan for her comments.
Ms. Dolan responded that she is not prepared to answer at this time.
Sewer Problem – Rosemont and Homestead Avenue Areas
Valerie Csongradi, 1166 West Rosemont Drive, said six months ago four days from now her house was flooded by sewage, and all believed it was due to the fact that the pipes were not adequate enough in the area. While thanking City officials for reassuring the residents that repairs will be made during the summer, Mrs. Csongradi pointed out that neighbors had a tremendous amount of damage and had to ask the City to reimburse them partially for the damages. Mrs. Csongradi reported that the insurance company for the City has not returned phone calls, except for yesterday when she received a phone call and they left a message on her answering machine saying that they are working on the request, they are not sure there is a liability, and they will notify the residents when they decide. Mrs. Csongradi asked the City to notify the insurance company that there is a liability and the residents would like to be reimbursed at least partially for the expenses that have been incurred up until now. Mrs. Csongradi added that every day she finds new things that she has lost.
Dennis Reichard, Business Administrator, confirmed that the City sends all the information to the insurance company and the matter is handled through the Law Bureau.
President Schweder added there will be some response back to the citizens.
Curbside Garbage Pickup and Zoned Hauling Proposal
Dean Bruch, 555 Spring Street, recalled he had to switch haulers a few times, and stated he did not think people want to be told which garbage hauler to have. Mr. Bruch questioned who is going to cite the contract hauler who does not do the job properly. He added that a hauler does not know anyone if they have not previously picked up garbage in a designated area. Mr. Bruch denoted that his garbage hauler used to come into his yard, pick up his garbage, and put the cans back in his yard. Mr. Bruch said “you have to watch the end result of what you want to do if you do it.”
Courtesy of the Floor – 5 Minute Time Limit
Mr. Bruch said he feels like he is always “gagged” by the 5 minute time limit for Courtesy of the Floor. Mr. Bruch communicated he cannot understand why the Members of Council do not want to listen to more than 5 minutes of public comments under Courtesy of the Floor.
Sewer Problem – Rosemont and Homestead Avenue Areas
Beverly Phelon, 1857 Homestead Avenue, referring to the issue involving sewage that went into neighborhood homes, explained it was understood that from the time of the October 8, 2005 event the property owners had six months to pursue involving the insurance company or possibly more extreme measures. She said that means April 8, 2006 is a very important date. Ms. Phelon, noting that residents chose to pursue resolving the situation with the City in an amicable fashion and hope to continue to do so, said she would like to make the City aware that April 8 is an important date to the residents so if at all possible it would be extremely helpful for the residents to have an answer within the next day or two.
President Schweder inquired if the residents’ ability to bring action against the City would expire after April 8, and whether they would have to give notice to the City by April 8.
John Spirk, City Solicitor, indicated in the affirmative. Attorney Spirk confirmed that the Law Bureau is aware of the situation and is working with the insurance company.
President Schweder was informed by David Brong, Director of Water and Sewer Resources, that work has not yet started to resolve the sewer problem, but the engineering is at a state where the Department is planning to hold a meeting on April 24 at the local church with the residents who were impacted to communicate the plan to them. Mr. Brong continued on to advise that Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, and the staff have done an excellent job with the engineering work and have developed a phased approach to solve the problem. He added it is a complex and large project that will have some potential impediments.
President Schweder recalled when discussions were first held last fall it seemed that work was to start prior to today, and was the reason for the urgency with which Council had to act and the loan had to be taken out.
Mr. Brong, commenting that is true, explained that the activities from an engineering perspective started within a week of the last event, and the engineering is nearly complete with all the documentation necessary to go out for bids. Mr. Brong restated that the schedule will be communicated to the residents.
Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, explained he did not think it was stated that construction would start prior to this date, and affirmed that engineering work started almost immediately. Mr. Alkhal advised that the survey is being completed, and there are a lot of easement issues due to the fact that part of the sewer line will be in the rear of houses where many things have been done in the backyards during the past 40-50 years. Mr. Alkhal noted the most optimistic schedule before engineering was done was that construction may start in the spring or early summer.
Mrs. Belinski, stating that she spoke with Curt Bartholomew, the City’s former sewer maintenance superintendent, remarked “he knows those pipes out there…like the back of his hand. He knows what the problems are.” Mrs. Belinski suggested it might be worthwhile to speak to Mr. Bartholomew who she said knows exactly what is wrong and how to address the problem.
Ms. Szabo asked why the April 8 date is so important. President Schweder expressed the belief that after six months the citizens would no longer be eligible to bring action against the City.
Attorney Spirk entered the conversation to say they have to notify the City that they have a problem.
Ms. Szabo, communicating that inasmuch as there seems to be confusion because of promises and lack of action for whatever reason, asked if the date could be extended.
Attorney Spirk said he thinks “they pretty much have already put us on notice that they have a problem. They made a claim with the insurance company. So their obligation is just that we don’t get them walking through two years from now. The law requires that we get notice within six months so that we can try to resolve it. I think they’ve pretty much given us notice by making their claim.”
Ms. Szabo, querying can there be a check of each person involved in that area to see whether or not they have acted and follow up on the matter, said she would hate to see somebody lose the opportunity.
Mr. Leeson said, while usually he does not like to play the role of lawyer as a Member of Council, stated that in the interest of serving the citizens they need to know that regarding the six month deadline the citizens have to send a letter and it must say certain things in the letter. Mr. Leeson continued on to say if the citizens do not say those certain things in the letter within the six months, as the City Solicitor indicated, the citizens may waive their rights to compensation. Mr. Leeson, noting it is a technical requirement that technical points must be in the letter, observed to be on the safe side the residents probably should send the letter so they do not waive any of their rights. Mr. Leeson, commenting he is not suggesting that the residents have a claim or do not have a claim, emphasized he is not their lawyer, Attorney Spirk is not their lawyer, and Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, is not their lawyer. However, Mr. Leeson reiterated that the residents must submit a written statement setting forth these requirements, and the rules are the State law. Mr. Leeson suggested that the residents not miss the six month deadline to send the notice.
Attorney Spirk, communicating he agrees with Mr. Leeson’s statements, explained what he was trying to indicate to the residents was that he would stipulate or deem that the contact his office has already had with them has put the City on notice. However, Attorney Spirk said Mr. Leeson is absolutely right about putting it on the record, and from a bullet proof position.
Ms. Szabo, stressing she is concerned about the people who are not at the Meeting this evening, asked is there some way a notice can be sent to everybody involved in the problem to say the deadline is coming. Ms. Szabo said she would hate to see someone lose their opportunity because of misunderstanding. Ms. Szabo asked if it could be put in the newspaper.
President Schweder inquired how many houses of citizens are impacted by the issue.
Mr. Brong responded there are about 45 homes with which the City has been in contact.
President Schweder, asking that the list be provided to the City Clerk’s Office tomorrow, stated that the City Clerk’s Office will notify all those individuals of their rights.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:35 p.m.